Whether you’ve always known you wanted to have children or you made your decision after years of uncertainty, one thing is indisputable: When you’re ready to start your family (or expand your growing brood), conceiving a healthy baby is just about the only thing on your mind.
But while you may have nothing but “baby on the brain,” it’s a good idea to pause and take stock before you plunge headfirst into pregnancy and parenthood. That’s because, even if you’re relatively young and healthy, there are steps you should take — before you conceive — to increase your chances of having a normal pregnancy and delivering a healthy, full-term baby.
Here at OB-GYN Associates of Marietta, we know just how important your preconception health is, when it comes to reducing your chances of having a high-risk pregnancy. Or, one that requires special monitoring and care to address or prevent unexpected medical challenges as your baby develops during delivery.
Although some factors that put a pregnancy in the high-risk category simply can’t be avoided, others can be controlled or prevented altogether. Here’s what you should know.
Although the term “high-risk pregnancy” sounds scary, it simply means that, for some reason, you and your baby require special monitoring or care to reduce your chances of developing serious or life-threatening complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
By some estimates, as many as 10% of all pregnancies fall into the high-risk category, meaning 1 in 10 women need specialized prenatal and obstetric care to ensure their pregnancies progress toward a healthy delivery as normally as possible.
Some women have uncontrollable circumstances that qualify their pregnancies as high-risk from the start. Advanced maternal age is one of the most common high-risk factors — simply being older than 35 increases the odds that you’ll experience the kind of labor and delivery complications that require medical intervention, or a cesarean birth.
Even when kept under control, chronic pre-existing maternal health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, kidney disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can also place additional stress on any pregnancy, automatically putting it in the high-risk category.
Having a history of miscarriage or premature delivery can place any subsequent pregnancies in the high-risk category, too, as can having a history of C-section deliveries. Carrying twins or other multiples is another circumstance that marks a pregnancy as high-risk and requires specialized care.
It’s also possible for a normal, healthy pregnancy to become high-risk if certain conditions emerge along the way. This is often the case when women with no previous history of diabetes or high blood pressure develop gestational diabetes or hypertension sometime during pregnancy.
While you may not be able to change your age or make a chronic preexisting health condition disappear, there are things you can do to prevent other high-risk factors from developing, reduce your risk of complications, and ensure your pregnancy is as normal and healthy as possible. Before you conceive, you should:
Feeling as though you’re ready for pregnancy and actually being ready to carry a baby are two different things. A preconception checkup can help you bridge the gap between the two.
A preconception checkup has two main goals: Uncover any unknown factors that increase your chances of having a high-risk pregnancy, and create a plan of action to get your personal risk factors under control before you conceive.
During your appointment, you can expect to go over your medical history as well as your current health status, review any medications or supplements you’re taking, and evaluate any habits or lifestyle choices that may need to be adjusted before pregnancy.
Starting your pregnancy at a healthy body weight is one of the best things you can do to promote a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. Women who are overweight before pregnancy are more likely to develop serious health conditions like gestational diabetes or hypertension, while women who are underweight are more likely to experience miscarriage or preterm birth.
If you consider yourself something of a couch potato, getting active before you conceive — and staying active throughout your pregnancy — can help you increase your strength, improve your endurance, and otherwise prepare your body for the physical demands of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Maintaining a regular, physician-approved exercise routine during pregnancy can also help you keep your weight gain in check, alleviate backaches and other common pregnancy symptoms, and decrease your risk of developing gestational diabetes.
Remember, optimal preconception health is the foundation of a healthy pregnancy, and our experienced and dedicated team of board-certified obstetricians and nurse-midwives can help you achieve both.
To learn more, call your nearest office in Marietta or Woodstock, Georgia today, or use the easy online booking tool to schedule an appointment any time.